65+ Time Management Tips for Students

As a student, you are likely juggling a lot of responsibilities. Between classes, homework, and extracurricular activities, it can be tough to find enough time in the day.

However, with some organization and planning, you can make the most of your time and get everything done.

According to experts, here are some tips for managing your time effectively.

Reza Khastou, M.Ed.

Reza Khastou

Advisor, College Director, and Education Consultant | Founder and COO, The Polytech

Three areas to apply time management strategies

Making time management a habit can help students throughout their whole lives. It is as fundamental as reading or writing, so it is important for us as educators to teach time management and other executive function skills.

I often talk about three areas for high school and college students to apply time management strategies:

Test-taking

Especially for multiple choice standardized tests, many are designed so that the first third of the questions are general topics that most students know the answer to.

The second third will only be familiar to some students, and for the final third, just a few will know the answer.

I recommend that students spend most of their time on the first two sections, where they have a higher probability of knowing the answer. If there’s no penalty for guessing and the student is running out of time, they can guess for any final questions instead of leaving them blank.

A student with disabilities can request extended time as an accommodation, and this will mitigate the impact of a disability that requires the student to take more processing time.

However, the student must still be aware of the time remaining and track whether they are halfway through the questions at the halfway point of time.

Keeping track of time by having a personal watch or making sure you can see the official clock in the testing room is highly recommended.

Daily life

We have all seen the students running out of the house, half-dressed and without having eaten breakfast. This is the ultimate stress for both parents and students. To combat that, we try to help students learn ways to be organized by preparing anything they can in the evening before they go to bed.

Related: 50+ Good Examples of Organizational Skills for Students

For example, they can take a shower at night and set out the clothes they want to wear the next day.

The backpack can also be prepared in advance, so as soon as they wake up, all the student has to do is wake up, wash their face, brush their teeth, get dressed, have breakfast, and they are out of the house with the least amount of stress.

Getting sports equipment ready and in a separate bag can also help reduce morning stress.

Having a regular place to keep frequently needed items like socks, shoes, backpacks, and keys helps ensure that no time is wasted running around looking for these items.

Academics

If another adult other than the parent has access to the online homework tracking system (and in college, the website stores syllabus information, tests, and quizzes).

In that case, they can help the student manage the requirements they have to do to be successful in a class by teaching strategies that can help:

  • Break large projects into smaller steps.
  • Remind them about upcoming tests and quizzes.
  • Regularly check in with the student to be sure they are current on assignments.

At first, some students are resistant to accepting help, but as soon as they see the outcome of the partnership and taste success, most are much more willing to move forward.

Using tools like a daily calendar or other online tools can help students be organized and can help them manage their time academically.

Jessica Schaid

Jessica Schaid

Curriculum Specialist, Ivy Camps USA

Develop a realistic picture of how to spend your time

Time Management for students can be challenging, but there are many strategies that can be applied to help students as they progress through their academic journey.

It is important to remember that time management is a skill that is governed by the prefrontal cortex of the brain and is considered one of the key executive functions.

However, the prefrontal cortex and executive functioning do not fully develop in most individuals until they are 25 years of age. Therefore, when we ask students to apply time management, we are literally asking them to do something their brain is not fully prepared to do.

Fortunately, there are many strategies that students can use to help them develop time management skills as their brains grow.

Before students can begin managing their time, it’s important that they develop a realistic picture of how they spend their time. Conducting a time inventory allows students to identify areas of their day over which they have control and can therefore manage.

Keep a time log

Younger students can divide the day into morning, afternoon, evening, and night, and older students can log their time in either 15 or 30-minute increments.

Have students record how they spend their time throughout the course of a week. After students have recorded how they are spending their time, they can then reflect on where they may be able to re-prioritize their activities.

It is helpful if students can color-code their time log by highlighting different categories of activities in different colors.

For example, they might highlight anything that has to do with school in yellow and anything that has to do with sports activities in green. This allows students to quickly gain a visual of how they are spending their time, especially for activities such as social media, which can sometimes dominate the daily schedule of adolescents.

Categorize the time into productive time or unproductive time

Once students have a clear picture of how they are spending their time, they can begin to prioritize by scheduling productive tasks during areas times that they have identified as unproductive.

This is also helpful for high school students who may be experiencing stress as they prepare for college, as they can identify appropriate times to plan a break for self-care.

Providing students with a tool to schedule their time is also essential

Depending on the age of the student, this may be a simple daily or weekly calendar that outlines events and activities. For older students, utilizing a digital calendar with reminders can help them meet their deadlines throughout high school and the college application process.

It is also important that students are directly taught how to use a calendar, how to pace their work, and have examples modeled for them so that they understand what a well-managed calendar should look like.

Establishing a routine with a specific time during the day to reflect on and adjust calendars is also important in assisting students in the development of time management skills.

Dedra Eatmon, Ph.D.

Dedra Eatmon

High School Teacher | Founder, Tassel to Tassel

Know yourself

Work on the most challenging tasks based on your peak mental productivity time. You do better work in less time when your brain is ready to do the job. In the vein of Eat That Frog!, do the thing that challenges you the most when you are best able to process it mentally.

For some, that’s the first thing in the morning. However, as a student, you may find you are sharper mid-day, afternoon, or even evening.

While I don’t suggest waiting until late at night, even if you call yourself a night owl, I do acknowledge that everyone isn’t capable of solving the world’s problems — or even chemistry — at 8 AM.

Make a plan

Using your class schedule as the foundation, create a time management plan (or weekly schedule) at the beginning of each semester.

Include those things you have to do (class, study, work, family obligations, etc.), then add in the things you’d like to do (student organizations, leisure activities, workouts, etc.).

Don’t forget the 2:1 study rule — studying 2 hours outside of class for every hour (50-minute block) in class. After a few weeks, tweak it based on what’s working and what’s not.

Track your time

That’s just what it means. Use your phone or a time-tracking app to keep track of how you spend your time. Do it for just one week and see how it compares to the way you think you’re spending your time. Use that to adjust your plan and to adjust your habits.

Get a study partner or group

Everybody needs somebody to get the job done! That’s true of life, and it’s true of school. Find someone who would be a good study partner. Not sure how to find one? Pay attention to who asks good questions in class and approach them.

Also, a study partner doesn’t have to be someone in your same class. There may be someone in your social circle which is often headed to the library or someone in the residence hall study lounge on a regular basis.

While having someone to study with is nice, sometimes you just need another person to keep you honest.

Create buffers

Often, it takes longer to do something than we think it will. (i.e., Have you been to campus IT for help?) While the “thing” may not take much time, you want to account for long lines, travel time, delays, etc.

By building in buffers, you won’t pack your schedule too full to make sense. You also give yourself time to breathe and decompress when you don’t have to rush from place to place and task to task.

We can’t do everything all the time. All you can do is all you can do.

Just do it

While it’s very easy to put things off when there’s only one more episode of your favorite show left to stream —especially if you’re not on a deadline — do yourself a favor by not putting off until later what you can do right now.

Trust me, you’ll feel better having done the thing.

Procrastination is very real as well are various reasons for it. It’s also true that some people can work better under pressure, but you don’t really have a choice when it’s down to the wire.

Related: How to Avoid Procrastination and Laziness

Save yourself the anxiety and stress of waiting until the last minute by being very honest with yourself about why you aren’t doing the thing.

If it’s because of things you can control, take a deep breath and take (small) actions to control them.

If it’s deeper than simple procrastination or avoidance, reach out to the counseling center. Let someone trained in working through thoughts and feelings help get you on track to feel your feelings and know what to do next.

Give yourself some grace

It takes time to get good at something. If you’re at a new high school or new to college, you may find the change in the environment takes you off your game.

Honestly, you may not have had much time management game, to begin with. Either way, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not great at managing your time right away.

Incorporate one or two small changes at first, see how they work, then keep adding more. Too many changes at once can put you in a tailspin just as quickly as doing nothing.

Just keep doing something. You’ll get there.

Lynne Fuller

Lynne Fuller

Admissions Coach and College Advisor | Founder, College Flight Path

Make use of calendars, timers, and color-coated post-it notes

Do you keep a calendar? Is it organized by subject, activity, family member, or season? Is yours handwritten in a beautiful leather-bound planner, or are you a technocrat and believe that a digital calendar is the only way to organize your day?

When asked how to offer time management tips to students across elementary, middle, and high school, hands down, my top three recommendations are calendars, timers, and color-coated post-it notes.

After twenty years of teaching, tutoring, and college planning, I have found that basic supplies and strict adherence to organizational processes support time management most effectively.

When I work with high school juniors and seniors throughout their college process, one technique is to organize their list by application type (early action, early decision, regular decision, and rolling) and then code their deadlines by color:

  • Green are the first applications due typically for rolling admissions schools.
  • Yellow are those due around the turn of the season (10/15).
  • Orange are the applications due later in the fall (11/1).
  • Red are those required by December and into the new year.

With every email I send, there are action items to be completed by our next meeting. Years ago, I began to employ my own strategies, which helped improve my workflow.

Modeling this behavior became the backbone of how my students take on their processes independently.

Not only does this practice take the stress out of what, when, and how work can be tackled, but it forms a routine that is adapted by each user to make any large task much more manageable.

For students across all grade levels, I always revert back to their planners. For students who struggle with day-to-day tasks, ensuring that they have color-coded post-it notes that span each weekday and one for the weekends can help further organize their workflow (think Green Monday, Yellow Tuesday, and so on).

Once a student has a white, cork, or chalkboard to line up their process, they can pull the tab to mark its completion. These notes can also be transported in a planner or journal, and the same color coding can be applied to digital calendars as well.

With that said, my best example of a digital model is what I personally use. My husband is a volunteer fireman, so any related events are denoted in a red calendar.

Our dog is dark brown, so his calendar helps us stay on top of his appointments, and I match the school I am working with to its related calendar.

If students were to adopt calendars that coincide with their history, English, math, science, foreign language, and elective courses, they could set up digital reminders with alerts about what task is due.

If they need a two-factor authentication system to ensure assignments will be completed, I recommend that students follow up with a written calendar and post-it notes to set physical reminders of what is already in their online calendars.

In terms of time spent on a singular task, I recommend the use of kitchen timers to set limits.

When I personally fall down the rabbit hole of research, writing, editing, or developing new materials, I must set time limits for myself or, at the very least, reminders to get up and move.

For students, time management can come in the form of:

  • Setting limits on their social media use.
  • Writing down a to-do list in half-hour increments.
  • Setting timers to help complete tasks in targeted focused work.

Technology is obviously very helpful in completing work but makes it equally as distracting because of access to so many distractions.

With that said, what other supports can students use to remain on time? When having to tackle a great deal of novel reading, I recommend the use of audiobooks to help enrich reading and encourage students to move while they listen.

This practice helps support daily movement and fresh air but offers students the opportunity to absorb content in a new way to increase focus and processing. This discussion of time management skills and one’s overall organization are really just a component of one’s executive functioning.

The frontal lobe helps govern the workflow by managing time, paying attention, being able to switch focus, planning events, and remembering details.

These are skills that can be fostered over a lifetime, making those who struggle more prone to missed assignments, misfires in communication with teams, or unable to make all the events they intend.

By incorporating visual aids like post-it notes and calendars, using a step-by-step approach to break down assignments, planning out homework days before it is due, and setting time limits, students can grow their executive functioning skills and gain more success in managing their time.

Ziad Bentahar

Ziad Bentahar

Associate Professor of the Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures, Towson University

Read course assignments carefully

Always read the prompt of an assignment carefully to avoid having to start over midway when you realize you have not been following the guidelines.

When pressed for time, it is perfectly natural to try to read as fast as possible.

However, assignment prompts, whether it is a paper, a question on a quiz, a reading report, or anything similar, are a place where you may want to slow down.

Professors often craft assignments with purpose, so reading them very closely is a great way to find out how to complete them efficiently. This saves time, as well as improves the chances of obtaining better grades.

Create a daily habit

The best way to save time by improving efficiency is to create regularity through a routine.

Set time aside every day for schoolwork. It matters less how much time and when than to set that time aside in the first place. So choose a time that does not conflict with work or other obligations, and stick to it.

One hour a day for five days will accomplish more than a five-hour streak in one day. Train yourself to become habituated to daily homework time.

Invest in a time-management app, but only if it works for you

There is a plethora of apps, programs, and websites offering time-management solutions. Some are even free.

However, none of them are magic. They will not create more time in the day or give you more energy. Therefore, do use one if you find it useful, but do not feel obligated to get one thinking it could solve all your problems.

If time-management apps do not respond to your needs, feel free to look for solutions elsewhere. Sometimes there are ultra-specialized apps that can better serve your specific needs.

For example, if checking references and bibliographies for your research papers is a time-consuming task for you, then software for managing citations may be what you need.

There are free options that you can download, such as EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero.

Use campus resources

Most campuses will have resources such as Tutoring and Learning Centers. Make an appointment and use these resources, as they are designed to help you complete your assignments.

If a due date for a paper is getting near and you haven’t started yet because you can’t seem to get an idea for your thesis, then your Writing Center may offer brain-storming sessions were talking about your paper with a tutor could spark an idea and get you going before it’s too late.

Campus Libraries also offer wonderful resources, and taking the time to familiarize yourself with them is an investment that will pay off by saving you a lot of time in the long run.

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

Kirk Hazlett

Adjunct Professor and Faculty Adviser

The first day of classes when a new semester begins can often be stressful…new subject…new professor…new classmates.

Over the years as a college professor, I’ve had countless “talk off the ledge” meetings with students who were having some level of a panic attack as they tried to digest the amount of work…studying…remembering…that lies ahead.

My advice comes from my own (long-ago) years as an undergrad literature major:

Don’t overload yourself

There have been a few times when, as a faculty advisor, I’ve ordered a student to drop an extra course that they have signed up for. I know the student…I know their capabilities…I know that success with the original schedule is doomed from the start.

Read the syllabus for each class carefully

Take note of all reading…textbook and outside…that will be required. This means actually looking through each textbook to get an idea of just how long each chapter is and how complicated the reading appears to be.

Calculate how much time you will need

Calculate how much time it will take you to complete the assigned reading…i.e., how quickly do you read normally? Next, put your math skills to use and figure out how much time you need to set aside each day in order to read everything that’s assigned for all classes.

Take your calendar and block out a “reading time” time slot each day

I recall, for one particular semester, the time being 1:00 AM! My roommate was asleep; I didn’t start classes until 10:00 AM, and my first class was right across the parking lot from my dorm, so there was no problem with the “commute.”

Stick to your schedule

Yes, there will be days when things go kerflooey, and you don’t get your reading in. Don’t panic… it’ll all even out!

This organized planning enabled me to successfully read and remember for tests (without totally losing my mind!) everything required for all my courses.

It also made it possible for me—many years later as a public relations professional—to read and remember all the data required in order to take and successfully pass a professional accreditation course (combination oral and written exam) while holding down a senior-level position that itself averaged 45-50 hours a week.

As I reassure my students and others that it’s all about organization. Do your homework in advance.

Know what’s required for all your courses in order to pass. Know your own capabilities. Pace yourself and, most importantly, believe in yourself. You can do this!

Karen Southall Watts

Karen Southall Watts

Professor in Humanities | Founder, Ask Karen Coaching | Author, “The Solo Workday

Below are the tips I think are most useful for college students.

Start with a master schedule

Build yourself a master calendar at the beginning of the term. Put in all your “carved in stone” elements first, like your classes, commuting time, or recurring appointments you can’t miss.

Then add in your study time, meals and exercise. Put in your social events and empty leisure time last, as these items have the most flexibility.

Watch out for time and energy wasters

Pay attention to the way your days and weeks play out.

If you find you are always behind and are constantly turning in late work or trying to catch up, then you may have some time-wasting activities buried in your schedule.

Common time thieves are binge-watching shows and endless social media scrolling. These pursuits will drain time from your days and energy from your psyche.

Discover your best time of day

Are you a night owl or a morning lark? It’s important to know when you are at your physical and mental best. Then, whenever possible, schedule your most demanding tasks during these times.

For example, you might do math or chemistry homework when you are at your peak and save casual reading for other times.

It’s not always possible to make coursework fit your personal needs, but whenever possible, set up your week for the highest possibility for success by cooperating with your body’s natural rhythms.

Create start-up and shut-down routines

Avoid the wasted time and headaches that come from lost keys, missing socks, and disorganized class materials.

Have a staging area where you drop your stuff off each day when you come home and pack up each morning before you leave. Put things in the same place each day so you don’t ever have to wonder where to find what you need.

A nightly routine that prepares you for a good sleep and a morning routine that gets you energized will help too.

Conduct a weekly review

Sunday night is the traditional night for this task. Go back over the past week. What worked? Where did you find yourself behind or struggling?

Plan your next week. Whether you are using a to-do list, a traditional planner, or a calendar app, you need to set aside some time each week to be sure all your tasks and commitments are plugged into your schedule.

Evan Weinberger

Evan Weinberger

Co-Founder, Illuminos Academic Coaching & Tutoring

If your student struggles with time management, take a look at the list of tips for effective time management for students.

Structure your days around non-work activities

School tasks can seem daunting without an academic schedule to provide structure to your student’s day. When days are unplanned, things often get put off until the last minute.

A useful tip that many of our academic coaches utilize while working from home is to structure their days around non-work activities. This organizes your student’s free time into small blocks of time and allows you to plan each block of time for a specific task.

So, try organizing your student’s schoolwork schedule around periods of exercise, short breaks, and small tasks. Make sure you set a time limit for each activity so that you don’t run into your work time.

Have a reward system in place

A simple self-imposed rewards system can help stir up the motivation your student may be missing. Whether it promises a small treat, 20 minutes of TV or screen time, or a bit of outside time, a reward system can help keep your student on task.

Designate a proper workspace

To minimize distraction and maximize productivity, our academic coaches always recommended designating a workspace specifically for homework.

Preferably, this workspace will be somewhere your student can work daily without interruption. An ideal workspace has plenty of desk/ table space, proper lighting, and even a little area for breaks.

Utilize airplane mode/snooze mode

Technology is both a blessing and a curse for the learning process.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has allowed offices and classrooms to be transported into the living rooms and home offices of millions of students and employees.

However, technology also can distract us from our goals and allow us to waste time that could be spent productively.

Social media, texting, Facetiming, and phone calls all require an internet connection or cell service, so while working, consider setting your students’ devices to either snooze mode or airplane mode for a set amount of time. This method can work in tandem with a rewards system.

For example, after 45 minutes of device-free concentration, reward your student with 10 minutes of device access.

Take breaks to recharge

Taking breaks allows your student to take a moment to recharge in the way that they choose and will ultimately lead to a more productive work period on either side of the break.

Like the airplane/snooze mode tip, taking a break from working can be incorporated into a reward system for your student.

Even in our hour-long academic coaching sessions, our academic coaches regularly implement the use of small breaks to keep our students focused and motivated.

Plan ahead and hit the ground running

Planning should start at the beginning of each week in your student’s academic planner and then be adjusted each night for the next day based on current productivity and new assignments.

Our academic coaches check our student’s planners regularly until we can ensure that our students are using their planners to the fullest extent of their potential.

Exercise regularly

Daily or weekly exercise is one of the most powerful weapons at our disposal for combating unproductiveness and procrastination.

Exercise raises our energy levels, helps fight stress, reduces fatigue, and improves general happiness and well-being.

If your student is restless and has trouble focusing, exercise will help reduce their unrest. If your student is lethargic and generally bored with academic work, exercise will help improve their energy levels.

Lindsey de los Santos

Elementary School Teacher | Owner, Migraine Road

Find what motivates you

Time management lessons are as essential as reading and writing

Students are required to know more now than ever and often in a timeframe that seems challenging.

Schedules are packed with activities from a young age, and many times this only compounds as students get older. This calls for lessons in time management to be a priority.

These lessons can happen as intentional conversations, modeling by others in their lives, and learning through their experiences.

How do we teach time management?

The how piece can be puzzling and frustrating at times. Sometimes in life, we learn best by doing things ourselves. This means having students keep track of due dates and expectations at an early age in a manageable way.

In my fourth-grade classroom, students have a monthly calendar where they do this. We also discuss keeping track of your out-of-school events, as this all takes our time.

Other students may stay on top of their assignments and events through a planner or online calendar. It is most important that students have a system that is going to be both purposeful and manageable.

If not, students will likely not follow through, and with that, they will fall behind.

Being transparent with students and your own children can be meaningful as well.

For example, I am a fourth-grade teacher and blogger, as well as the mom of two boys. This takes some serious time management, but I am motivated to do my best for all of these things.

I share my own success and challenges with kids so they can see I get it.

Finding what motivates students can also make a big difference. This is where relationships come in and not simply giving students a to-do list. When they feel cared about, they will be more likely to try out a system that could help them.

What to do when students struggle?

These skills do not come naturally for all and do require some teaching. Just as we provide interventions for reading and math, we must, at times, provide interventions for organization and time management.

At our level, this may mean a daily check-in, a student checklist, or even providing a student with a buddy or student leader to work with on these skills.

For older students having someone to hold them accountable and check in with them can be very powerful.

Related: Why Is Accountability Important?

The important thing is to help students realize they can do things on their own, and a setback does not have to mean giving up. Teaching can include grace and encouragement.

This can come from the people in students’ lives at school and home.

Nikki Bruno

Nikki Bruno

Executive Director, Student Coaching Services

Here are some of my thoughts on effective time management techniques.

Pomodoro technique

Do you struggle to sit down and get work done when you have so much to do? Do you find yourself getting started with one project only to get distracted by something unrelated that ends up wasting your whole day? If so, try the Pomodoro technique!

Related: Does the Pomodoro Technique Work?

Basically, it’s a way of blocking your time into small chunks so that you can chip away at your project bit by bit.

Find a task that needs to be done, and set a timer (say, for 25 minutes). Devote yourself fully to that task for the complete 25 minutes, but the moment your timer goes off, go ahead and take a short break (say, 10 minutes).

And after your 4th timer goes off (meaning you’ve worked for 2 hours), take a longer break — say, 15-30 minutes.

You can adjust this to fit your own schedule, but the point stands: if you block out your time in this manner, you will be so much more productive!

Block your days out in 15-minute chunks

Want to know a secret about wealthy people? They tend to “block” their days out in 15-minute chunks.

  • At 9:00 am, they eat breakfast.
  • At 9:15, they go for a walk.
  • At 9:30, they prepare notes.
  • At 9:45, they edit their notes and send out the invites for their weekly video meeting.
  • At 10:00, they begin the meeting.

You get the drill — they already have planned out their entire day from start to finish, making sure to hold every 15-minute segment of time accountable. They even schedule downtime.

If you’re a highly structured person (or you feel you need a little more structure to be productive), try to plan out what you will do with each 15-minute segment of time for a whole day.

Get work done while hanging out with your friends

Last (but certainly not least), consider getting work done while also hanging out with your friends! This is especially helpful for social people.

If you struggle to hold yourself accountable to get work done, start a study group that meets on a consistent day and time. (E.g., Mondays and Wednesdays at 3:00 pm). Show up to each of those meetings, and get work done while also spending time around your friends!

A nice upside to this trick is that, while you are in the presence of others doing work, you’ll feel more obligated to be busy yourself. And thus, you’ll be a lot more productive.

Understand how your brain works

It’s also good to understand a thing or two about how your brain works.

For example, did you know that you will never feel motivated to do something until you’ve started actually doing it? This is because the neurotransmitters for motivation are only released in your brain after you’ve started doing something.

In other words, your body wants you to be lazy—and you have to fight it!

And make sure to be as free of distractions as possible. Work in a clean, clutter-free space (maybe not your room), and consider using website blockers to keep yourself on track.

And make sure to give yourself grace! You may not get everything done that you want to, but just focus on one piece at a time, and in no time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you’ve accomplished.

Anne Glass

Anne Glass

Education Specialist and Head of School, MUSE Academy

Nip procrastination in the bud

Once you start procrastinating, it can be very difficult to stop.

You become comfortable with the idea of putting off school responsibilities and leaving it until the last possible moment. And although this might give you more free time, it also increases your stress levels and makes school a very unenjoyable experience.

If you want to succeed at time management as a student, you need to get rid of procrastinating in all aspects of your life. It helps to use a day planner so you can write down all due dates and events coming up so you can physically keep track.

A big reason why students tend to procrastinate is because of the lack of organization, to begin with. If you don’t see what you have to complete, it will not be on your radar which makes it almost impossible to complete in a timely manner.

Using a day planner also helps you to write down specifics of when you plan to do school work and other extracurricular activities. When you plan this out, you will actually end up with more free time than you thought because you manage your time properly.

Beverly Gearreald

Beverly Gearreald

College Counselor and Community Manager, Transizion

Prioritize tasks and find more time to get things done

As a student, it often feels like a million things are vying for your attention. It can be hard to know how to prioritize tasks and find more time to get things done.

How to prioritize tasks

I recommend starting by creating a list of everything you need to get done. Go as broad as possible.

Definitely include assignments like homework and projects, but also consider including regular things like taking out the trash on Tuesday nights or things without deadlines, like reaching out to a professor to see if she has any research opportunities for you.

Next, take that list and put it on a calendar or in a planner, using the assigned due dates.

For items that don’t have due dates, rank them by order of importance to you or necessity to get done and slot them in wherever you see space in your schedule.

Before you know it, you’ll have a list you can walk through and check items off of, already ordered, so you don’t have to spend time wondering what to work on next.

Finding more time to get things done

It’s easy to get lost in the moment and only do what needs to be done right now. However, in the long run, this takes up more time. As much as possible, you want to batch tasks together.

For instance, instead of waiting in line at Subway every day, it’s faster to make a few sandwiches all at once and simply grab one on your way to class every morning. (As a bonus, it’s generally healthier too!)

Similarly, it’s more productive if you can set aside three straight hours to work on a project rather than breaking it up into three one-hour slots.

As you learn how to dedicate time to specific tasks rather than doing them every day or piecemeal, you’ll find you have more time to get other things done. (Or to relax!)

Eileen Roth

Eileen Roth

Organizing Expert, Everything in its Place® | Author, “Organizing For Dummies

Organize your locker

There are very little time between classes to change books and binders, and/or notepads. So it’s a time saver to organize your locker. Tall locker organizers let you put binders underneath them and notepads or books on top of them.

However, if you live in a climate where you wear boots, you might want boots under the tall locker organizer in the winter and a second shelf for binders during that time. Boots must be on the bottom as they will be wet.

Keep a magnetic board on your locker door with a wipe-off pen/eraser combo so you can write notes to yourself as reminders- that there is a test, to take something home, or to bring something to school tomorrow.

Use a student planner

Use a student planner to schedule your assignments as well as quiz dates, test dates, and major project due dates.

You can also put notes in there about bringing something home or taking something to school. (i.e., A teacher requested a new school supply or a test is tomorrow, so take home a book/notepad to study.)

Plan your projects

If you know you have a paper to write, plan when you will do the research, draft, and final paper. Don’t leave it to the last minute when you have other homework to do or might even have a test or two—plan on doing it earlier and finishing before the due date.

If it’s a big project, break it down into smaller steps, so you have time to do research, make the project, and do a presentation, if needed. (i.e., science projects, book reports)

Get enough sleep

If you need 8 hours of sleep to be refreshed and not tired, be sure to get 8 hours of sleep. That means leaving enough time to do your homework, even if you have to start right after school.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you may be tired at school and not understand a concept the teacher is presenting, hearing that you have a test tomorrow or a project due in a week.

Don’t overschedule activities

If school is hard for you, that might mean giving up some or all extracurricular activities after school because you need to start doing homework before dinner in order to be done before bedtime.

Do at least take a snack break right after school. If you play video games or talk on the phone for a break, you might want a timer, or you can waste your time and have to stay up late to finish homework.

What homework to do first?

Start with the hardest homework, so you are doing the easiest homework later in the night.

If you struggle with a class, that homework is first. If you love a class, save that class for last when you are more tired and have less brain power the later it is in the evening.

  • Backpack

Pack up your homework in your backpack before you go to bed, so you don’t waste time in the morning. Also, add any extra items you need to take to school, like clothes or items for after-school activities.

  • Clothes

Save time by choosing your clothes the night before so you don’t waste time deciding in the morning.

Katja Sieling

Katja Sieling

Publicist, Tribe Builder Media

Time management techniques in academics can help provide the necessary structure students need to succeed in other parts of their life.

Without an effective time management strategy, college studies can quickly become overwhelming and take away from things like extracurriculars, hobbies, work, and the ability to be present with your family and loved ones.

Here are the time management tips that led me to success in my academics and beyond.

Take syllabus week to gather all coursework-related due dates in one place

Putting every due date in the same place can be daunting, but it is a time investment that gives back all semester.

Whether you put your due dates on a calendar, in a spreadsheet, or write them out in a notebook, having the due dates of all of your classes in one place can give you a clear picture of the semester course load from the get-go.

I designed my system by putting all of my due dates into my Google Calendar as tasks and used the description section of each task to input any details that would be important for me to know. Doing this meant I could pull up my due dates on my laptop, phone, or public library computer.

In addition, being able to access my due date schedule at any time gave me a sense of control over my schedule and plan for academic success.

I also took the extra step of creating a one-page “roadmap” document for each class, with a chart made of two columns.

The column on the left was labeled by week, and the column on the right contained a list of all the assignments, papers, presentations, or exams I had for that particular week.

Crossing each item as I went was satisfying, giving me a quick overview of the time commitment I had to set aside for each course every week.

But each student is different, and what works for them when it comes to deadlines is unique to their workflow and organization style.

Block schedule your non-negotiable time commitments

Marking off important times like your course meeting schedule, work schedule, religious activities, date nights, friend get-togethers, and dorm cleaning (yes, even that) can help students gain a better sense of the time that they have available to them for both coursework and personal time.

For my system, I made my block schedule directly on my Google Calendar, but this can also be done on a paper planner or using a different online program.

I used a different color for each category, which made it easy to glance at my calendar and understand what each day and week would look like in terms of my non-negotiable commitments.

Show up for yourself

Nobody can want success for you more than you want it for yourself. The key to time management is acknowledging that you are in control of your schedule and your commitments.

Part of that means you need to show up for yourself, whether it’s turning down social commitments that cut into your study times or taking breaks from that massive term paper to get some fresh air.

There are thousands of articles advising on how to manage your time, but in the end, those are just suggestions.

You are the only person who will know what will work for you, and you are the only person who can hold yourself accountable to the time management system you put in place.

Showing up for yourself and taking control of your time means you can continue showing up for important people in your life.

College is temporary, and once it’s over, the time management systems and discipline you build in college will prepare you for your future career and for the life that you want to live.

Anquisha Janea Crutcher

Anquisha Janea Crutcher

Author, Entrepreneur, Social Activist, and Writer

Prepare ahead

Preparing ahead is a way to help you master time management. Preparing for your weekly tasks can be done in one setting. You can prepare your week, or even your next task, by setting out one day of each week or by setting out an hour of each day.

When creating a plan for a successful time management skill, try to add the things that will take the most time to complete at the bottom of your to-do list. If things seem to take a huge amount of time to complete, split the time up in a sequence of days, preferably in 30 minutes increments for each task.

By doing this step, you will be able to focus on creating a plan to complete things in a timely manner.

Always arrive on time

Arriving on time for anything can help set you up for success. Arriving early for an event, class, or even for a task, in general, will help bring time management under control.

By doing so, you’ll have enough time to wrap your mind around the task at hand without being overwhelmed. You will also be able to relax and focus.

If you’re at a career fair or in a group setting, you will be able to walk around and socialize, meet new people, and network prior to the start.

Set time limits

Setting time limits for your busy schedule is another tip to help set you up for Time Management Success.

You can set time out of your day to complete many tasks, such as doing laundry, cooking dinner, completing homework assignments, or even hanging out with friends.

Setting a time frame for each task can help set you up for success, and at the end of the day, you will have a successful feeling of completing tasks and practicing time management skills.

Set enough time in between your tasks

Create enough time between your tasks. It is always good to have at least 30 to 45 minutes between each task if you are planning things that are across town. Set enough time based on travel time.

Always have enough time to travel, set up, socialize or network with people. This step will help reduce anxiety and can help create a smooth transition for you in preparation for your next task and for your overall Time Management Success.

Emilia Moskal

Emilia Moskal

Parenting Content Specialist, HiJunior

Make time for yourself

Time management is about being able to schedule and plan one’s day or month, depending on the deadlines and workload. However, oftentimes students will forget to include time off in their timetables, focusing only on being able to finish a project or assignment.

Managing time and juggling multiple tasks can be difficult, but it has to also be realistic. Not taking breaks or making time for hobbies, or just relaxing can lead to the schedule completely collapsing.

How? Well, humans, especially kids or teenagers, need fun and entertainment; it’s normal and to be expected.

Related: 40+ Self-Care Tips and Activities for College Students

When this need is not satisfied, then the mind will try to look for fun by itself, meaning that the student will be more prone to distractions and, therefore, procrastination.

It is much easier to focus on a task when the mind and body are taken care of, and with time management, procrastination should be avoided as much as possible.

Urges to do something else while working won’t be as strong or be there at all if the schedule includes breaks and time off.

Realistic goals and prioritizing

First, weighing the importance of each task, then also identifying the approximate time it would take to complete are the first two steps to good time management.

Doing these two things allows for an efficient allocation of time, i.e., Task A is more important than Task B, but Task B only takes two days to complete, whereas Task A takes two weeks.

Logically, Task B should be done beforehand, so the student can give more time and think about Task A without worrying about having to finish as fast as possible to have time for Task B still.

Moreover, knowing the importance and time needed for assignments leads to realistic goals, and realistic goals are necessary in order not only to be able to use a schedule effectively but also to not be overworked or overwhelmed.

Not only is a student’s motivation boosted, but also their self-confidence and self-esteem in completing their tasks due to how well they have maximized their time and resources to create an efficient timetable.

Have a clean, decluttered workspace

Having a workspace that is well organized, has everything needed, with nicely stacked papers or good lighting can really help a person with productivity. It also means that a neat and tidy desk keeps distractions at bay.

Moreover, enough desk space means that everything needed can be kept at arm’s reach, and decluttered spaces are proven to keep the mind de-stressed and productive.

Being able to start allocating and managing time with a clear head will aid in focusing and truly creating a schedule that works.

Ashley Rios, MS, CPSC

Ashley Rios

Certified Professional School Counselor | Partnership Manager, UPchieve

Break school projects into manageable steps

Receiving a big project can feel overwhelming for many students. Before starting a big project, I recommend that students take a few minutes to break their project down into more manageable baby steps.

For example, if you’re assigned a large research paper, a student can break the project down into four initial categories:

  • Prep work
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Review

From there, they can break the project into smaller steps until the project no longer feels overwhelming.

Create a study schedule

In order to be successful in school, it’s important to be organized. One of the best ways to do this is by creating a study schedule!

All you have to do is break your assignments into baby steps and create a schedule. You can do this in a paper planner, a free planner app, or even in a plain notebook.

The most important thing is to break assignments up into manageable chunks so you feel less overwhelmed as the semester kicks into high gear.

Not only will this keep you on track with each step in a big project, but planning out regular study sessions before big tests can save you from cramming the night before.

Richard J. Brandenstein

Richard J. Brandenstein

Attorney and FBR Law partner, Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C.

Do not chain yourself to your desk for hours at a time

It can be tempting to do it, given that you will feel like you’ve worked hard, but you can be significantly more productive if you study in bitesize chunks rather than for hours at a time.

I’m not talking about studying for half an hour 6 times a day, each separated by an hour or more (though that does work for some people). Rather, you ought to study for a short amount of time, take a short break, and return to your studies.

For example, I used to work for 45 minutes and take 15 minutes off; in those days, that was actually somewhat difficult since there weren’t the same number of distractions that there are nowadays.

It should be easier than ever now since you can browse the internet or social media during your breaks, and this has the added benefit of creating a reward cycle where for each 45-minute block you work, you can enjoy some leisure time.

While there’s nothing wrong with this, a complete break from your screen is perhaps best, with fresh air being best of all for enhancing your productivity.

If it’s a nice day, why not brew a coffee and sit outside to drink it? I promise you, it will do wonders for your productivity.

Do not try to multitask

While a large workload can be intimidating, the best way to work through it is to work through each task one at a time methodically.

Of course, you should prioritize your work based on its relative importance, as well as when the deadline or date of the exam is.

Jitesh Keswani

Jitesh Keswani

CEO, e intelligence

Setting realistic micro goals

Setting micro-goals can be an effective time management strategy. Ideally, they should be short-term and have a clear deadline. You should add these to your To Do list or calendar and try to complete them in the shortest time possible.

Setting goals will increase your productivity and help you reach your long-term goals. By setting micro-goals, you can see where you are about your big goals.

When you know your progress, you can make minor adjustments as needed. This method will help you stay on track and avoid burnout. In addition, you’ll be able to accomplish tasks much faster.

Using time management apps

Time management is an important life skill, and time management apps can help students to manage their time better. Using these applications, students can stay on top of their to-do lists, prioritize tasks and limit context switching.

They can also organize focused time into calendars. It is a good idea to choose a system that works for you.

Some of students’ more popular time management applications include Evernote and Todoist. These apps help you keep track of your daily tasks and events, such as homework, assignments, and projects.

They allow students to set timers to remind themselves about assignments and to take breaks. They also enable students to collaborate.

Minimizing distractions while studying

Distractions are everywhere, and it is essential to minimize them while studying. While many of us underestimate the importance of these distractions, they can significantly disrupt our concentration.

By following a few simple strategies, you can minimize the chances of interruptions while studying. These steps will help you focus more, learn harder, and will help you retain more information.

To reduce distractions:

  • Start with removing external sources of noise.
  • Turn off your phone or set it to do not disturb mode.
  • Let your friends and family know that you are studying, so they can refrain from bothering you.
  • You can even listen to classical or ambient music in the background to help you focus on your studies.

Dr. Michael K. Newman

Michael Newman

CEO and Plastic Surgeon

Decide what’s most important to you at any moment and design your schedule around that

If you’re a student, the assumption would be that school is the top priority, but it’s much more complicated than that.

If you’re working part-time while studying, your job can also be a priority because you could be self-supporting. Or, at the very least, it gives you an opportunity to gain experience and build networks and relationships that will help you further down your career path.

Meanwhile, your personal life can also be a top priority because you’re young, and it’s simply the best time to live life.

So how do you balance the three effectively without sacrificing anything too much? My advice is to look realistically at your particular circumstances.

  • Which is more flexible, your class schedule or your work schedule?
  • What time of day are you most engaged in academic learning?
  • Are there night classes available at your chosen university or college?
  • Are there jobs available in the area that will happily accommodate your class schedule?

Gather as much information as you can about these things so you can make a decision as to which system works best for you.

And don’t forget to reserve ample time for yourself. Take a walk. Have fun.

Being dedicated to your studies doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. Giving yourself a share in your calendar makes it easier to handle the more serious parts of your schedule. Plus, it makes you more engaged and less vulnerable to burnout.

Lauren Schmidt, MSW

Lauren Schmidt

Social Entrepreneur | Founder, A Tree That Grows

Don’t try to do it all, overwhelm is never our friend

Oftentimes when we put 10+ things to get done on a list, it can feel overwhelming and not very much fun. Choose no more than three to tackle in a day.

If you find yourself procrastinating, forgive yourself and try again

If you have one day where your schedule feels like it’s become unmanageable, it’s okay. Recognize you’re trying your best, forgive yourself, put on some amazing music to get yourself pumped up, and try again tomorrow.

Find a journal you love and write it down

They say that if you don’t write it down, it’s not real! So find a fun journal, make it yours, get your favorite quotes on there, and write down your goals.

Imperfection is so much more fun than feeling stuck

Many times we don’t start work because we’re afraid people will judge us, or it won’t be good enough. Keep in mind that even the best in their fields started at the beginning, and doing something wrong is so much better than staying stuck.

Ask yourself what matters most to you

Ask yourself the question: “What matters most to me?”

Sometimes we can get caught up looking at what our friends are doing instead of taking the time to ask ourselves what matters the most.

Celebrate the small wins and find your people doing the same

Things become so much easier (and a lot more fun) when we share our goals and journeys with people who are also working towards their dreams! Find your people and watch everything else fall into place.

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